Cuban President Diaz-Canel Hides Behind “Voluntary Work”

Miguel Díaz-Canel has tried to present an image of a modern president close to the people.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 27, 2021 — They say that the Díaz-Canel government is not responsible for the national economic disaster. But every day they give us evidence of it. The State newspaper Granma now echoes a report of the communist leader’s day of “voluntary work” in the Havana neighborhood of Fontanar, in the Base Business Unit (UEB) Granja Boyeros, belonging to the Metropolitan Agricultural Company.

Díaz-Canel turned up there to celebrate his own July 26, and to send a message to “the generations of living Cubans whose working days at the foot of the furrow during those seasons we will never forget. They are at the center of all nostalgia, the time to remind us that working with our own hands is a necessity and a privilege that Cuba deserves to have.”

Tremendous. If he believes that, he’s lost. If he doesn’t believe it, he’s a great actor. Those of us who are Díaz-Canel’s age think of volunteer work with anything but nostalgia. It was a coercive nightmare of a regime that forced everyone to think and act in the same way.

Volunteer work was a communist instrument of social coercion implanted at the very beginning of the revolutionary process to divide Cubans. Those who went to volunteer work were the favorites, the ones who deserved praise and rewards. Those who freely showed their disagreement were classified as ‘gusanos‘ (worms), enemies of the revolution, and were professionally and socially punished. Castroism was very simple in mechanisms of punishment and reward. Either you were with him, or against him. There was nothing in between.

Voluntary work, linked to the land, failed to increase productivity and procure more food. Quite the opposite. Requiring people lacking agricultural knowledge to work in various tasks, many of them specialized, caused production yields to plummet.

Any responsible politician would have immediately put a stop to volunteer work by observing those indicators, but Fidel Castro, who already had millions of dollars in Soviet subsidies at that time, thought otherwise. And volunteer work was not only maintained, but the specialized Schools in the Countryside were established for high school youth, and UMAP (“Military Units to Aid Production’) farms for homosexuals.

Those were the years of the communist regime’s greatest cruelty, so I don’t know how nostalgically Díaz-Canel should remember those dramas unless he has a masochistic bent.

Granma’s chronicle doesn’t hold back, and presents Díaz-Canel’s workday as a gondola ride through the canals of Venice. Yes “a heartwarming morning . . . closing with a relaxed meeting, marked by music, photographs that many young people took with the president, and a joy that is born of mutual understanding, of feeling that they had celebrated, in the best way, a special day in the country’s history.” A way of hiding from the reality of arrests and very summary trials of those who peacefully protested in the demonstrations.

Also, volunteer work is not your thing. And immediately the act came truffled with corporate elements of the regime that is currently immersed in a serious crisis. It is not surprising that the National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and Hero of the Republic of Cuba, the former spy, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, passed by. Whose presence should be interpreted as reinforcing the most hardline wing of the regime to Díaz Canel, the encouragement he needs to continue with the arrests and summary trials of the protesters. There were, of course, allusions to Fidel “who from being an accused went on to become a defender of the people through ‘History will Absolve me'” in an interpretation of historical events as always manipulated and uncertain.

But the best of the gondola ride came when Díaz-Canel wanted to talk about the future.

And that set off alarms, due to its dangerous distancing from reality. The pact with the hardline sector has worked. And instead of Díaz-Canel talking to the Cuban people to resolve the crisis, he shut himself up in the postulates that have led him to disaster. Maybe from sunstroke during the short day of volunteer work. These things happen.

The most surprising thing was that he then mentioned the entrepreneurship of young people, as well as continuing to promote more spaces for dialogue. The usual dialogue, that of “inside the revolution everything, outside the revolution nothing.” He questioned “the difficulties they have been facing in the midst of Covid-19” without providing solutions to them, and proposed “increasing the legal foundation for everything that society undertakes; and continuing to improve our concepts, our culture of public and business administration.”

From so much talk about companies and entrepreneurs, some were left waiting for an allusion to volunteer work, but there was only a reference to “community work that has always been developed in the revolution; to make the socialist state enterprise more efficient; to renew the ways of participation of the population; to renew the role of mass organizations,” while insisting on “eliminating the causes of marginalization, of crime, of vulnerable people and families.”

Then he talked about preventing children from dropping out of school, so that they don’t become criminals, so that young people disengaged from study and work don’t become criminals, adding that “if someone commits a crime, that we have a social program in prison that is capable of transforming them, so that after they leave prison the society is able to assimilate them and they can feel that they are advancing in society and not regressing.”

After citing the features that distinguish us, he introduced the concept of “creative resistance,” not understood as overwhelming, but quite the opposite: “to resist and see how I advance, how I rip a bit out of each problem every day, how I multiply myself, how I grow, how I find prosperity faster for myself and for everyone.”

They have no remedy.

According to Díaz-Canel, creative resistance and unity “are the two conquests that want to fragment us, if they promote hatred, division, if they take away our ability to resist creatively, then they colonize us because we lose our identity.”

Obsessive and outdated ideas that have very little to do with the reality of the times and the demands of a society that is fed up with so much talk, and wants actions, like those demanded by the protesters in the streets of San Antonio de los Baños.


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